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Iowa Supreme Court to hear arguments in four cases Jan. 23

by Rox Laird | January 19, 2024

The Iowa Supreme Court will hear arguments in four cases Jan. 23. Three other cases will be submitted to the Court without oral argument. Go to On Brief’s “Cases in the Pipeline” page to read briefs filed in these cases.

 

Myers v. City of Cedar Falls

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 9 a.m.

Question: Does the city have qualified immunity from liability for an injury resulting from a diving board accident?

The City of Cedar Falls seeks further review of an Iowa Court of Appeals’ May 24 ruling reversing the Black Hawk District Court’s dismissal on summary judgment of plaintiff-appellee Ron Myers’ negligence claim against the city for his knee injury from a diving board accident at the city’s municipal swimming pool. Citing the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2015 decision in Sanon v. City of Pella denying qualified immunity for a municipality’s violation of an administrative rule, the Court of Appeals held the city is not entitled to qualified immunity and remanded the case to the trial court on the question of whether Cedar Falls violated an administrative rule requiring non-slip surfaces on public pool diving boards.

 

Thorington v. Scott County and Greg Hill

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 9 a.m.

Question: Are Scott County and a sheriff’s deputy entitled to qualified immunity in the fatal shooting of a suspect at a traffic stop?

Scott County and Deputy Sheriff Greg Hill appeal a Scott County District Court ruling denying the county and Hill qualified immunity from liability in plaintiff-appellee Patty Thorington’s excessive force and loss of consortium claims on behalf of the Estate of Robert Mitchell for the fatal shooting of Mitchell at a traffic stop. The district court held that the liability exemption in Iowa Code Section 670.4A(1), enacted in 2021, does not apply retroactively to the 2018 shooting by Deputy Hill, and that the defendant-appellants are not protected from liability by the Iowa Supreme Court’s 2018 ruling in Baldwin v. City of Estherville, which established an “all due care” immunity defense. The county and Hill urge the Supreme Court to resolve three questions of first impression: whether the all-due-care immunity established in Section 670.4(1)(c) and Baldwin applies to excessive force claims under the Iowa Constitution’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures; whether Code section 670.4(1)(c) is retroactively applicable; and how Iowa Municipal Torts Claim Act immunities apply to Iowa constitutional tort claims.

 

State v. Luke

Will be submitted to the Court Jan. 23 without oral argument.

Question: Did a sentencing court err in imposing a two-year prison sentence to be served consecutively with a previous sentence for an offender convicted of second-offense domestic abuse assault?

Scott Luke appeals an Aug. 30 Iowa Court of Appeals decision affirming the Cerro Gordo District Court’s sentence of Luke to up to two years in prison following his guilty plea to second-offense domestic abuse assault to be served consecutively to the original sentence on prior charges after revoking his probation. Luke argues in his application for further review that the district court abused its discretion when it disregarded the four months he previously served and by imposing consecutive sentences without justification on the record.

 

Vagts and Vagts Dairy v. Northern Natural Gas Co.

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Should plaintiffs alleging damage to a dairy herd from stray voltage from a pipeline prove negligence for a nuisance claim?

Northern Natural Gas Co. appeals a Fayette County jury verdict awarding $4.75 million to plaintiffs-appellees Mark, Joan, and Andrew Vagts, and Vagts Dairy on their nuisance claim for damage to the Vagts’ 500-cow dairy herd allegedly caused by stray voltage from a federally mandated low-level electrical current applied to a Northern Natural Gas pipeline to mitigate corrosion. Northern Natural argues on appeal the district court should be reversed and the Supreme Court should hold that a showing of negligence is necessary in a stray-voltage nuisance claim against a pipeline company.

 

State v. Cole

Scheduled for oral argument Jan. 23, 1:30 p.m.

Question: Was a mother wrongly convicted of child endangerment for leaving four children in the care of her 12-year-old son?

Paula Cole seeks further review of an Aug. 23 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming her conviction in Black Hawk District Court for child endangerment for leaving four of her children in the care of her eldest child, age 12, while she went to a store 25 minutes away from Cole’s home. Cole argues in her application for further review that the evidence was insufficient to prove she knowingly acted in a manner that created a substantial risk of harm to her children.

 

State v. Schwartz

Will be submitted to the Court Jan. 23 without oral argument.

Question: Was a high school teacher wrongly convicted of sexual exploitation of a student in part based on the statutory definition of “hugging”?

Kari Schwartz seeks further review of a Sept. 27 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming her conviction by a Buchanan County jury for sexual exploitation by a school employee, by pattern, practice, or scheme. A student in Schwartz’ Independence High School art class testified Schwartz gave her full-body, intimate, chest-to–chest “bear hugs,” and the two exchanged personal emails and text messages. In her application for further review, Schwartz argues, among other things, that the trial court erred in delivering a jury instruction that altered the statutory definition “sexual conduct” to include “hugging.”

 

State v. Goble

Will be submitted to the Court without oral argument Jan. 23.

Question: Did a trial court improperly consider a convicted offender’s parole eligibility in imposing a five-year prison sentence?

Jacob Goble seeks further review of an Oc. 11, 2023 Iowa Court of Appeals ruling affirming the Washington County District Court’s sentence of Goble of up to five years following his guilty plea for third offense possession of a controlled substance. Goble argues in his application for further review that the trial court erred in considering Goble’s eligibility for parole in imposing the prison sentence.

 

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